วันอังคารที่ 1 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2551

Keynote speech Special Working Group on the Future Direction of Network of East Asian Think-Tanks

Keynote speech
By
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Prapat Thepchatree
Director
Thammasat University Research and Consultancy Institute
at the Special Working Group on the Future Direction of Network of East Asian Think-Tanks
6 June 2008
Intercontinental Hotel, Bangkok



Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,


First of all, I would like to say that it is my great honor and privilege to be invited to make a keynote speech at the Special Working Group on the Future Direction of NEAT today.

I myself have been involved in the NEAT activities for several years now. I can recall my involvement in organizing the 2nd annual conference of NEAT here in Bangkok, organized by Institute of East Asian Studies, Thammasat University, in the year 2004. At that time, I was the chairman of the ASEAN Studies Program of the Institute. I also participated in the 3rd and 4th NEAT annual conference in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. So after having some experience involving NEAT activities, I therefore would like to share some of my thoughts on the two topics that would be discussed later on. The topics are “East Asian Community Building” and “Reinforcing NEAT”.

First, on the topic of “East Asian Community Building”, I would like to propose some ideas concerning the modality of the East Asian Community and the roadmap to the establishment of the Community.

My proposal is that the roadmap and modality of the East Asian Community is the extension of the ASEAN Community, by establishing the East Asian Economic Community, The East Asian Political Security Community, and the East Asian Socio – Cultural Community.

As for the East Asian Economic Community, I propose setting up East Asia Free Trade Area by using the building bloc approach by way of merging ASEAN – China FTA, ASEAN – Japan FTA, and ASEAN – Korea FTA. I would like also to propose setting up East Asian Monetary Fund, and , as a long term goal, East Asia currency, and East Asian common market.

The East Asia Political Security Community will also be established by the extension of ASEAN Political Security Community, with the emphasis on peaceful settlement of disputes, confidence – building measures, preventive diplomacy, and conflict resolution mechanism.

The East Asia Socio-Cultural Community will be established by promoting functional cooperation, civil society, and the East Asian common ideality.

However, the main obstacles for the East Asian Community are: lack of full support by the members, rising fear of Chinese eventual domination of the East Asian Community, Sino-Japanese conflict, and rising U.S. opposition.

The main hidden motive of setting up the East Asia Summit or the EAS by adding India, Australia, and New Zealand to the group is to counter balance Chinese influence. But the EAS is overlapping with ASEAN +3. The EAS is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it will help balance Chinese influence and calm down the American opposition. But on the other hand, the EAS will eventually destroy East Asian common identity. The EAS might be the Trojan horse for the East Asian Community. Therefore, ASEAN +3 must be the main mechanism towards the establishment of the East Asian Community, and the role of the EAS should be downgraded.

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now I would like to move to the second topic that is on the future direction of NEAT.
NEAT must play an important role in pushing towards the establishment of the East Asian Community.

But as we are all aware, just a couple days ago, the EAS has already established the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia or ERIA. I sincerely hope that ERIA and NEAT will complement each other. But I have a feeling that might be too optimistic. As the old saying that: “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. So the pessimistic side of my views would see that the establishment of ERIA is the critical challenge for NEAT, and I sense that if NEAT does not upgrade its activities, NEAT will eventually moving into irrelevance in the foreseeable future. So, I see this critical juncture as a very important warning that it is very urgent that we should upgrade the NEAT.

The first thing that we have to do is to upgrade NEAT’s activities concerning the role as a track II of ASEAN +3. We should seriously think about ways and means to establish linkages with track I of ASEAN +3.

There are several ways to do that and I would suggest some.

First, in recent years we had established working groups and based upon the working groups’ reports, we come up with policy recommendation papers submitted to the ASEAN +3 Summit . I think this is a very good idea. This is a very big achievement of NEAT. I think we should continue doing on this activity. But we should try to improve our policy recommendation paper with a view of having greater impact and more concrete results.

And I would like to add that, in order to fully establish linkage with track I, we should pursue the following activities:

· Instead of having one impact and one paper for ASEAN +3 summit, we should pursue multiple channels by trying to send our inputs to all ASEAN+3 meetings. We should carefully study the calendar of all ASEAN +3 meetings and then come up with strategies to send our specific inputs to specific Track I meeting. That would dramatically increase NEAT impact on track I.
· We should try to come up with the meeting between NEAT and track I, particularly, SOM+3 or DG+3. I can recall that ASEAN-ISIS used to have working lunch or dinner with ASEAN SOM on a regular basis. We should push for something like that.

· The other thing that we should do is to establish linkage with ASEAN+3 unit at the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta.


As regard the substance of our inputs, we should carefully study two documents: the Second Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation and the ASEAN+3 Cooperation Plan (2007-2017). Based upon these documents, I would like to suggest some of the issues that NEAT should pursue in its studies and come up with policy recommendations in the future.

On political and security issues, we should set up working group on East Asia Political Security Community with the emphasis on studying the confidence-building measures or CBM. This would be along the line of the Second Joint Statement which said that “We will expand and strengthen dialogue and cooperation through the development of human resources, conduct of regular security dialogue and exchanges and other capacity-building measures”.

On economic issues, NEAT should establish working group on East Asia Economic Community with the emphasis on studying “a free flow of goods and services and easier movement of capital and labor by promoting economic liberalization, economic integration, transparency and free trade”. Multilateralizing the Chiang Mai Initiative and strengthening the Asian Bond Initiative should also be studied.

We should also set up working group on East Asia Socio-Cultural Community with the emphasis on studying energy cooperation, environmental cooperation, disaster management and emergency response, and the development of East Asian Identity.

The next thing we should do to revitalize NEAT is to go back to implement several activities that are written in the “Basic Rules and Framework of NEAT” which is the most important NEAT document. As a matter fact, I think it is about time that we should review the Basic Rules and change the name of this document to be the NEAT Charter.

There are several things that we should review and implement. For example:

· Producing and disseminating NEAT publications. I think we have not done it yet.
· We should review the article 5 on secretariat work. I think we still have weak secretariat work. I am not sure whether it is the right time or not to suggest setting up the secretariat of the NEAT. I sense that there will be some complications and difficulties in view of the sensitivity of the issue.

· The website of NEAT should be upgraded. It should include important NEAT documents like the Basic Rules and Framework, the minutes of NEAT annual conference, and minutes of country coordinator meetings.

· On article 7 on funding, it is very important that we should push our governments to provide the necessary financial support for NEAT activities. We should make strong effort to establish a long-awaited NEAT Fund. We should also raise funds from other sources particularly from the private sector and from international institutions.


Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

These are some of my thoughts that I would like to share with you today. And I
hope that it will serve as a food for thought and stimulate discussion later on.
To conclude, I would like to express my appreciation once again for the organizers: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and East Asia Study Center Ramkhamhaeng University for inviting me and allowing me to express my views to this meeting. I wish all participants all the best and for the successful and fruitful deliberation.


Thank you very much.